O Taste and See: A Biblical Reflection on Experiencing God

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9781612614076: O Taste and See: A Biblical Reflection on Experiencing God
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If you have always been troubled by the image of God as a punitive judge, this book will show you why this view is so mistaken. Psalm 34:8's "O taste and see how good the Lord is" contains in miniature the whole process of coming to and growing in faith. It gives us insight into God and into how we experience God. We come to know this good and gracious God by means of the body: seeing (a metaphor for understanding) and tasting (shorthand for what the body knows). In fact, it is precisely engrafted hunger that turns us God-ward - only to find God waiting on the road for our return and ready to host a feast for us. "If you think you might be hungry for God, but haven't experienced God directly, or if you are a believer who still feels malnourished, I hope this little book might be for you a kind of manna. Taste. See." -from the Introduction

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Review:

This is small, readable, well-produced book, with a particularly attractive cover, which invites you to open it and look inside. To have a whole book devoted to a profound reflection on a single phrase from a psalm is an example at its best of how lectio divina can lead us to new and unexpected insights about God and our faith.
Bonnie Thurston is an author of several books of theology and spirituality. Also a poet and retreat leader, she now lives as a solitary in the hills of West Virginia. Therefore, she brings the understanding of both a theologian and a deeply prayerful Christian to exploring the depths of meaning in this short phrase, verse 8a from Psalm 34, ‘O taste and see how gracious the Lord is’. She is particularly concerned that we should experience God not only intellectually, but primarily through our bodily experience.
She is aware that it can be dangerous to take a biblical phrase out of context, so her book begins with a brief discussion of the use of the psalter, especially this psalm, in the Church. I was interested to read that the Orthodox Church regards verse 8 as describing the act of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ; the psalm is often used at the reception of Communion.
The following two chapters consider the phrase backwards, starting with God’s existence (“The Lord is”), which was assumed by the writers of the Hebrew Bible. The author acknowledges the impossibility of proving God’s existence and that it is often difficult for people to believe in God. She suggests that faith is a gift that has more to do with hope, trust, and admission of our need, than with certainty. The manner of God’s existence is always good. Both steadfast love, mercy, and compassion. This is shown above all in the gift of Jesus who gave his life to reconcile humanity, and indeed the whole of creation, to God.
The second part of the book turns to how we might know and experience God. The author first considers seeing, in particular the nuances of the Greek word horao, which can suggest either physical sight or understanding, not only intellectually but also experientially, especially of beauty in all its forms. This can provide a way to ‘see through’ created things to the God who stands behind then all. Her exploration includes the book of Job and―not surprisingly―St John’s gospel. In this gospel, Jesus invites people to ‘come and see’, to grow in understanding and to decide whether they will leave all and follow him. This invitation is for us too, if this is our aspiration and the focus of our deepest desires.
She considers ‘tasting’, which in Greek implies not only to eat but also to perceive. It is another metaphor for experience, suggesting a deeper, bodily kind of knowing. We can absorb and savor the word pf God through scripture (cf. Psalm 119:103 and Jeremiah 15:16). Feeding and eating, moreover, are recurring themes in the gospels, which culminate in the Lord’s Supper when Jesus offers his body (himself) and his blood (his life) to feed his friends.
The conclusion draws together threads from previous chapters, focusing on Luke’s account of he encounter on the Emmaus road, which is dramatic example of seeing and tasting coming together in the presence of Jesus. The invitation to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ is offered to everyone; for Christians it is offered especially at the Eucharist, where it is also an invitation to a lifelong journey with our gracious Lord.
I very much enjoyed this interesting book. Its blend of theology and experience shows a mean of entering more deeply and prayerfully into this single phrase from a psalm. It is helpful, too, to be reminded that our body and its senses are good and can be a liberating way to God. ―Carol Simmons, Fairacres Chronicle 


Bonnie Thurston is noted for her biblical scholarship on New Testament topics, particularly her recent book on the Gospel of Mark (Liturgical Press, 2013) and her Sacra Pagina commentary on Philippians and Philemon (Liturgical Press, 2003), In O Taste and See: A Biblical Reflection on Experiencing God, Thurston uses both her academic skills and her pastoral sensibilities to ponder the deeper spiritual meaning of Psalm 34, especially verse 8. Because she is a poet and a solitary, living the life of a hermit in West Virginia, her writing is personal and meditative. The thin volume contains two parts, which are prefaced by a translation of Psalm 34 (NRSV) and an introduction, In the first section, she explores the context of the psalms both in canon and in the life of the Church, and addresses the concepts that God exists (“The Lord is”) and how God exists (“The Lord is good). The second section attends to the experience of God by reflection on the commands to “taste and see.” “‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ is an invitation―indeed, a command―to experience God, not in some rarefied, sacred environment, but as potentially discernible in everything, everywhere,” Thurston concludes (97). This volume may be of interest to seminary and university libraries that specialize in Spirituality and Scripture. ―Laurie Brink, OP, Catholic Library World

This book conveys a wealth of knowledge, theological wisdom and spiritual riches while being easily readable. Thurston wants us to think about our senses and experience God; O taste and see how gracious the Lord is.

O Taste and See is a slim volume focusing on Psalm 34―especially verse 8a, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’. It is an ideal book for taking on a retreat, slim enough to fit in a pocket. The chapters focusing on each phrase of this verse urge the reader to slow down, and to think in detail about tasting the goodness of God. The style is chatty, yet there is a depth of learning which offers countless nuggets of insight. We learn more about psalms in general as well as this particular psalm.
The book points us to the work of theologians, enabling any reader who wishes to explore in greater depth. The notes at the end are an excellent resource. There are poems, stories and shared experiences from the author’s life. This is a book to be tasted and chewed over. ―Bonnie Thurston, The Way, July 2015

About the Author:

Bonnie Thurston is a former seminary professor, a poet,

and a solitary living in the West Virginia mountains.

She leads retreats throughout the world.

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Book Description Paraclete Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. If you have always been troubled by the image of God as a punitive judge, this book will show you why this view is so mistaken.Psalm 34:8's "O taste and see how good the Lord is" contains in miniature the whole process of coming to and growing in faith. It gives us insight into God and into how we experience God. We come to know this good and gracious God by means of the body: seeing (a metaphor for understanding) and tasting (shorthand for what the body knows). In fact, it is precisely engrafted hunger that turns us God-ward - only to find God waiting on the road for our return and ready to host a feast for us."If you think you might be hungry for God, but haven't experienced God directly, or if you are a believer who still feels malnourished, I hope this little book might be for you a kind of manna. Taste. See." -from the Introduction. Seller Inventory # ASC9781612614076

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